Altitude Range: 600 -2000masl
Language Spoken: Spanish
Avg Farm Size: 5 hectares to 50 hectares.
Harvest: November – March.
Annual Coffee Production: 325,644,000 lbs.
Common Varieties: Caturra, Catuai, Villa Sarchi
General Cup Profile
Whether washed, honey, or natural, Costa Rica leads the way with immaculate processing. Very clean, sweet, lemon, and toffee cups in the middle altitudes, and almost bottomless, sugary, raisin syrup cups at higher elevations.
Central Valley, West Valley, Guanacaste, Tres Rios, Turrialba, Orosi, Brunca, Tarrazu
Tarrzu accounts for nearly 35% of the total coffee production in Costa Rica. The altitudes of 1000–1800m produce some of the most nuanced coffee profiles in Costa Rica. Tarrazu has been home to some of the most impressive advancements in coffee processing in the country, and the result is extremely clean coffees. Tarrazu is able to produce extremely high qualities of larger lots of coffee in addition to microlots.
The Central Valley comprises San Jose, Heredia and Alajuela provinces. The region is characterized by having a well-defined wet and dry season. The coffee plantations are at a range of 1000 to 14000 masl. The Central Valley yields nearly 15% of the total production in the country.
The coffee plantations are located at an altitude range of 800 to 1400 masl. This region has produced an extremely high percentage of CeE winners, and produces nearly 25% of the total coffee production in the country. Primarily Villalobos and Villa Sarchi varieties are found here.
The region is made up by the Alajuela, Guanacaste, and Puntarenas provinces. The coffee plantations are located in the mountain zones with cooler temperatures. The soil is volcanic, extremely fertile, and has excellent structure.
The coffee plantations are located near the Irazu Volcano at an altitude range of 1200 to 1560 masl. The soil has a small tropical acidity caused by the volcano; it is rich with organic matter. The soil characteristic allows the good root development, holding moisture and facilitating the oxygen flow, supplying vitality to the tree.
This region is characterized by having farms that are simultaneously cultivating coffee, cacao, and banana. The altitude range is between 600&ndash1300; masl. Caturra and Catuai varieties are cultivated in this region.
Coffee has been grown for more than 100 years in Orosi. The fertile land and excellent climate conditions permits the coffee-growing activities. The farms are located at an altitude range of 1000–14000 masl. Volcanic soil and high fertility.
Brunca consists of two cantons: Coto Brus and Perez Zeledon.
Coto Brus: Located between the biological reserve and integrated by San Vito, Sabalito, Agua Buena, Limoncito, Pittier, and Coto Brus districts. The lands are very irregular, with abundant vegetation and good conditions for coffee growing. The farms are located at an altitude range of 900–1400 masl with organic soils.
Perez Zeledon: This area has an irregular topography because it is a valley surrounded by hills. The valley has abundant rivers with clean water. The valley creates the perfect conditions for microclimates and a diverse ecosystem. Caturra and Catuai varieties are cultivated in the region. The farms are located at an altitude of 1700 masl.
Costa Rican coffees set the standard for washed (wet processed), bright Central American coffees in both the bean and at the mill. Costa Rican coffees are exceptionally high-grown in mostly volcanic soil. These two factors come together to produce a very bright and very clean cup. The best Costas develop an intense sugary sweetness to complement the straight-out brightness. Costa Rican coffees serve as an excellent bright single-origin coffee, and will definitely add life to various blends.
Costa Rica has also coined the phrase “honey processed” for their version of pulped-natural coffees. Honey coffees are coffees dried with all or part of the sugary mucilage still left on the parchment. The result is an intensely sweet and slightly fruity cup. This cup profile is typically about halfway between a fully washed and natural coffee. Costa Rican producers have pushed the boundaries and truly refined in the process like no other country. Much of the rest of the coffee-producing world that is interested in processing experimentation looks to the pioneers in Costa Rica for direction.
The many different regions of Costa Rica produce coffees with subtle, but distinct, differences in the cup.
Tarrazu is the marquis region of Costa Rica noted for the best soils and highest altitudes. While no single country or region can guarantee an exact level of coffee year in and year out, as coffee is subject to wind, rain, sun, and other sometimes-less-than-cooperating forces of nature, coffees from Tarrazu do consistently stand out for their brightness and clean cups, with hints of light berry and apple cider.
Volcan Poas, besides having one of the cooler-sounding coffee region names, it produces some very fine coffee with a bit more fruit than its southern neighbor of Tarrazu.
Tres Rios in the cup is a bit softer and a bit more balanced than the straight-on, take-no-prisoners brightness of some of the other regions in Costa Rica. Coffees from this region are a great single-origin cup, or introduction to Costa Rican coffees.
Another amazing feature of Costa Rican coffees is the human touch at the beneficios (mills) where the processing and milling of coffee approaches a level of artistry not easily surpassed. Besides immaculately clean mills, which are the standard, the efficiency and beauty of the inner workings of the mill amaze.
For example, with strict Costa Rican environmental laws, wastewater from the fermentation tanks is treated with natural bacteria to break down the acidity reducing the pH back to levels that are tolerable for the streams and rivers of the country. By using the wood from pruned old coffee trees, along with the parchment from dry milling, many mills do not use a single stick of outside wood to fire the mechanical dryers. Some of the more inventive mills actually use the methane gasses produced when the bacteria breaks down the fermented pulp to fire the dryers. Finally, sun-dried coffees, of course, are just simply “solar” powered. All in all, the mills are an impressive sight, from the small single estate to the largest cooperatives.
With such high standards in Costa Rican coffees to start with, intense cupping pays rewards as we seek out the subtle nuances that make certain cups outstanding among their peers.